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Water polo blog: 107 days away…

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One hundred and seven. That is the number of days until we compete for a national championship…at our home pool. In Avery Aquatic Center. 107 days to train. 107 days to get better.

Jamie Neushul (NORBERT VON DER GROEBEN/isiphoto.com)
Jamie Neushul (NORBERT VON DER GROEBEN/isiphoto.com)

We rang in the New Year together for our first official practice of the season and have been on a grind ever since.

The focus of most of our training towards the beginning of this season has been on conditioning and fine-tuning individual skill work. It has been fun to see the freshmen incorporated into our team and style of play. We are encouraging one another in the pool and weight room to improve and excel.

As far as competition goes, we mostly have to play against each other in practice. We were lucky enough to get to train with the Chinese national team, which gave us a break from beating up on each other. It was interesting and different for us to play against an international opponent rather than another college team. We used our sessions with China to prepare for our first official competition, the Lou Tully Memorial Tournament.

We opened up the first day of the tournament in an exhibition game against China. After our two practice sessions, we focused on their tendencies and personnel to prepare ourselves for the game. The hard work paid off. We beat China 10-6. It was a close battle but we pulled away from them in the fourth quarter, thanks to a lot of help from our goalie, sophomore Gabby Stone, who ended the game with 13 saves.

We defeated another international opponent in Brazil in the second game, 13-6. This game was a great offensive team effort. Seniors Ashley Grossman and Kiley Neushul both tallied hat tricks in the win.

The second day of the tournament featured the first two official games of our season against Pacific and Cal State Monterey Bay. Before these games, we stressed the importance of defense as a component that we really wanted to focus on. Defense turned out to be the name of the game. We held both teams to only 3 goals combined, with a 14-3 win over Pacific and a 20-0 win over Monterey Bay. Both games featured many scorers for us, including 10 different players in the first game and 11 in the second.

Senior driver Kiley Neushul, Jamie's sister, led the Cardinal with five goals in its first two official matches of the season in the Lou Tully Memorial Tournament. (BOB DREBIN/stanfordphoto.com)
Senior driver Kiley Neushul, Jamie’s sister, led the Cardinal with five goals in its first two official matches of the season in the Lou Tully Memorial Tournament. (BOB DREBIN/stanfordphoto.com)

This past weekend was a good opportunity for us to explore our team’s versatility before our competition begins to get tougher. It was especially fun to have our freshmen play in their first official games. The freshmen — Jordan Raney, Shannon Clearly, Natalie Chun, Katie Dudley and Lauren Norheim — have been working tirelessly every day in practice and to see that hard work translate in the games was very encouraging for the whole team.

We are now working towards becoming “tournament tough.” We have mostly tournaments in this first segment of our season, and the first is our very own Stanford Invitational on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. We are focusing on conditioning so that we are ready to play multiple games a day. Everyone is getting very excited to play in our home pool for the first time, always keeping it in our minds that our home pool is where we will be in the end.

While we do split the season up and take it day by day, the number 107 never leaves our minds. As of today, 107 is the number of days until we compete in the national championship. I can’t wait to see what we do with it.

Contact Jamie Neushul at jneushul ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Jamie Neushul works on water polo coverage for The Daily. She is on the women's water polo team in her sophomore year here at Stanford. She is a double major in Communication and English and aspires to pursue a career in journalism or possibly go to law school. She is from Santa Barbara, California and loves to go to the beach and surf.